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You also must choose the correct type and size of shot for the shotshell. In general, as the size of your target decreases, you should decrease the diameter of the shot you use.

  • As pellet diameter decreases, more shot can be placed in a standard shotshell.
  • The smaller the shot "number," the larger the pellet diameter.
  • Shotshell marked as "magnum" means the shell has more shot or more gunpowder than a regular shell. You should avoid using magnum shotshells in older shotguns or in guns that are not designed for magnum shells. In these firearms, the chamber may be too weak to handle the extra pressure from the magnum load, leading to an accident or injury.
Comparison of three shot sizes

Steel shot pellets react differently than lead when shot. Because steel shot pellets are not as dense, they weigh about one-third less than lead shot pellets of the same size. Also, steel is harder, does not deform, and is not as unstable in flight as lead. It will produce a tighter pattern than lead shot. If using steel shot for hunting, choose a steel shot size one to two sizes larger than the lead shot you would select.